Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Real Life and Writing Books with author Norma Gail

Real Life and Writing Books

with author Norma Gail

Write what you know is the mantra we hear. However, sometimes the story God lays on your heart is not 100% familiar in every way. I am celebrating the third birthday of my debut novel, Land of My Dreams. The story bears some similarities to my life. A woman meets the love of her life while struggling with heartbreak. My husband is European, so I know the experience of becoming part of a family who thinks very different from my own. However, I’ve only been to Europe twice and only once to his homeland. Each of us goes through times when we struggle with God. Each of us has doubts. Each of us must learn to overcome personal struggles in the strength of the Lord. Each of us longs for love.

Then comes the unfamiliar part, I set Land of My Dreams in Scotland. That’s a long way from my New Mexico home. As Bonny Bryant, the main character says, “Scotland is about as similar to New Mexico as water is to dust.” I have visited Scotland and many of the events in the book relate to actual experiences we had during our time there. 

Our day at the Highland Games was as far from summer as I can imagine, cold and very rainy:
The weather felt like autumn, but the hearty Scots appeared to be enjoying their summer weather, ignoring the constant drizzle punctuated by periods of pelting rain.
“Thanks for suggesting the rain suit. I’m not used to this.” She smiled at the sight of children in sleeveless shirts and shorts and a dapper-looking older couple strolling along in their tartans, licking ice cream cones and declaring it “a lovely day.”
Bonny regarded the varied group of contestants gathering on the track, already dripping wet. The rain was coming down in buckets. “They’re going to run up that mountain in this?”

My favorite memory created one of the most romantic scenes in the book. Standing atop Grant Tower at Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness was a moment I will never forget. We shared the small area on the ruined rampart with a group of Italians only interested in photographing themselves. I leaned on the railing, imagining Nessie popping up below and my husband pointed to a magnificent rainbow, arching from one side of the loch to the other:

“Come see this.” Kieran and Bonny stood atop Grant Tower at Urquhart Castle, overlooking Loch Ness. For her, it was a place of poignant memories. He pointed to a rainbow arching from one side of the loch to the other as she moved into the crook of his arm. “Now, down there.”
She stood on tiptoe and looked to where he pointed, at the base of the tower.
“Step onto that ledge and I’ll steady you.”
The warmth of his hands around her waist contrasted with the chill wind. She shivered and leaned close enough to hear the stubble on his chin scratching against her raincoat. “The rainbow enters the water at the foot of the tower. Another fifty feet, and it would form a complete circle. Amazing.”
His arms tightened around her. “No more so than the woman in my arms.”
She kept silent. Did he feel it? What could be more romantic than a rainbow all their own?

A piece of my heart remains in Scotland to this day. However, it lives springs to life through my characters, Bonny Bryant, a feisty American college professor running from loss, and Kieran MacDonell, a Highland Games hunk of a sheep farmer fighting his own dark struggles to win her heart. Land of My Dreams spans the distance between New Mexico’s high desert mountains and the misty Scottish Highlands with a timeless story of overwhelming grief, undying love, and compelling faith.

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directly to Amazon
Little did I know that our anniversary trip to Scotland would turn into a contemporary Christian romance about the land that lives in my heart to this day. Memories of multiple circles through traffic round-abouts; eating haggis after a cold, rainy day at the Highland Games; climbing every stairway in every castle we visited; and a 15-minute stop overlooking Loch Garry noted for its similarity to a map of Scotland, were the material necessary to make my dream of becoming a published author come true.
I invite you share my excitement by visiting my blog for the Land of My Dreams Birthday Celebration Contest, featuring Amazon gift cards, free books, and the Grand Prize of a Scottish Tea Gift Box. Visit http://www.normagail.org/land-of-my-dreams-celebration/ and enter to win on one of the Rafflecopters at the bottom. The contest ends on May 5th.

About the Author:
Norma Gail is the author of the contemporary Christian romance, Land of My Dreams, winner of the 2016 Bookvana Religious Fiction Award. A women’s Bible study leader for over 21 years, her devotionals and poetry have appeared at ChristianDevotions.us, the Stitches Thru Time blog, and in “The Secret Place.” She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. Norma is a former RN who lives in the mountains of New Mexico with her husband of 40 years. They have two adult children. If you’re interested in connecting with me, I invite you to follow my blog, join me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads, or Amazon.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Homeschool Mom and Author Kristen Kooistra

I am blessed to have yet another homeschooling/mom/author visit on the blog this week. Today we get acquainted with Kristen Kooistra, who is a fantasy writer.

How long have you been homeschooling?

This is my first year. My oldest is 4 years old and we’ve been tackling the challenges and joys of writing, phonics, counting, colors, shapes, opposites, etc. My mother homeschooled my four siblings and I for most of our school years. I experienced three and half years of non-homeschooling (2 years public school, one year of charter school, and ½ year of a Christian school), but homeschooling was my favorite.

I always knew that I wanted to homeschool my children too. I love being with them and seeing them learn.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve always dabbled a little, but I didn’t start writing seriously until 2014.

What gave you the writing bug?

Something inspired me and I decided to wing it, not thinking it’d actually pan out. But I kept going and the story grew. I fell in love with it and realized that for the first time I might actually get past the first chapter of a novel.

Do you remember the first story you wrote?

Definitely! When I was little I wrote two VERY short stories. One was about a turtle named Tiny and his family. My first novel ended up being the first one I ever finished and is published now as Heart of the Winterland.

What type of books do you write?

Fantasy. I love reading a couple other genres, but writing fantasy is my passion. I love being able to focus on characters and plot without being bogged down with keeping everything true to the time/area. I’d rather invent a world with all of those details than research ones for real world time periods and places.

How do you find time to write?

A lot of my writing happens after my kids and husband are sleeping. I spend a couple hours at night staying up late to write. I’ve been trying to find time during the day to write as well because there’s so many nights I’m too tired to stay up late.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Knowing what to keep and what to pitch. I write character-driven stories so I’ll have scenes that have little to no bearing on the plot, but they do so much for the characters and their story that I can’t imagine getting rid of them. It’s hard to know where that line is, especially when so many books are plot-driven and those are the examples that come to mind when I’m comparing.

Do your kids help with your creative process or give you ideas?

Not at all! Haha! I will say that I recently wrote a child for one chapter and she was the same age as my youngest so having a fresh, firsthand experience helped me bring the character to life. Most of my characters are much older than my children. If I ever wrote children’s books, I’d have plenty of ideas though.

What is the single most significant thing you can tell us about your writing career?

Oh, that’s a hard one. I’d say my writing career is insignificant in a lot of ways. I’d want to encourage people to never give up, find the method that works for you, and find a good group of people to encourage you and critique your work. Even if my book never goes far, I still get to say I finished and I’m proud of what I’ve done.

Can you tell us about a character in your current work in progress?

Yes! I’m working on books 2 and 3 of my series (that starts with Heart of the Winterland) and I have a new character, Damian, who’s been a lot of fun to write. I love most of my characters, but Damian’s chapters are the ones I’ve been working on recently so he’s fresh in my mind.
Damian is the cold, cunning, crown prince of Sjadia. Tragedy at a young age pushed him into a deep depression and he gave up on life. Someone pulls him out of it and he decides he’s going to hide who he is. He pretends to be ignorant and lazy (a peacock prince) so that his mother won’t suspect that he’s still just as deadly, more so, than he was before his depression.

Damian’s so smart and smooth, that it’s hard not to like him, despite his cruel nature. I’ve had some critiquers guessing at his end and hoping that somehow he reforms and has a happy ending. I don’t think that’s in the cards for him, but I’m glad to know that people are connecting with him. I’m a pantser, so I don’t even know what Damian’s fate is until the end.
Click on the cover
to go to Amazon

Read an excerpt from Heart of the Winterland

unlight glinted harshly off the blood-spattered snow covering the courtyard. Terrified screams, crackling flames, and the cries of wounded soldiers formed a strident cacophony that grated on the queen of Trabor’s ears. Through the castle window, she stared impassively at the pandemonium below.
Knights scrambled to escape their hoofed attackers and flames leapt high into the sky from the burning stables. A magical barrier cast by the leader of the attacking horde stood between the castle and the fighters, tinting the scene a poisonous green. Separated from the rest, two figures fought at the base of the castle steps. One darkness, the other sunlight. The black-clad witch beat back the fair-haired man.
None of this was going according to plan. At least, not according to the queen’s plan. But she had one last card to play.
Little arms wound around her neck. “Mama.” The queen didn’t look down, but pressed the child’s sunny head against her shoulder. “Shush now, darling. Everything will be fine.”
But everything wouldn’t be fine. Not for her, not for her husband, and not for the kingdom. None of that mattered though. Her daughter would survive, and that was the only life she cared about. Sure, it would’ve been nice to save herself, but she’d come to terms with the fact that her life was cursed from the start. At least she could do this one thing. At least she could save her daughter.
“We’re going to hide. You need to be a good girl and not cry.”
The princess looked up at her, wide eyes full of trust. She didn’t answer, only clung tighter to her mother.
The queen turned from the scene. The battle was lost. She didn’t need to see anymore.
With the princess in her arms, she fled across the stone floor. Her footsteps echoed as the noise of battle faded into the background. The twists of the castle corridors were familiar, and she reached the sanctuary quickly.
She rushed into the sparsely furnished chamber and slammed the door behind her. Shaky fingers fumbled at the latch as she secured the door. If attacked, it would not hold long. She rested her forehead against the smooth wood, closed her eyes, and tried to even her breathing. Distant screams filtered in through the solitary window.
The child squirmed in her arms. “Daddy?” Tears sprang to the queen’s eyes as the sweet voice tore at her heart. She stepped to the canopied bed and gently laid her daughter on the soft covers.
Too weak to stand any longer, she knelt on the cold floor and soothed her daughter. “I love you, my sweet princess.”
Hands shaking, she took a vial full of green liquid from the wooden chest of drawers next to the bed. She uncorked it, lifted her daughter’s head, and helped her swallow. Carefully she returned the bottle to its stand and lowered the child’s head to her pillow. The medicine would help her sleep, sparing her from the coming terror.
There had never been any real hope that the fight would go in their favor. The enemy was too powerful, and the queen had no doubt who would be the next person through the door.
As her golden-haired angel slept with her fist curled tightly around the blanket, the queen murmured, “She will never remember this; never know the terrible price I will pay for her life.”
She forced herself to turn her mind elsewhere and opened the silk purse on her hip. Inside laid her miracle, the final defense, and the one thing that would save her baby.
The timing had to be perfect to unleash such a powerful magic that would require no less than her life. Magic always needed a power source. Most of the time that power came from the caster, but this magic was not of her making, and it would require her life force and more. She needed the witch nearby to act as a power source.
A humorless laugh burst from her thin lips as she dropped the magic that altered her appearance. Luring the witch to her and dying would be easy. The enemy would be all too happy to oblige.
The sounds of battle ceased, and the smell of smoke reached her. Muscles taut with anxiety, she waited. Her heart thudded in her chest, and her breathing rasped, loud even to her own ears. Then she heard it: a single pair of boots marching towards her.
She placed herself between the door and her child, steeling herself for what she had to do. The boots halted, pausing outside her pitiful barrier.
 “Luku!” a triumphant shout rang from the other side. The door disintegrated into a pile of dust.
In the gaping doorway loomed the witch responsible for all the death and destruction. Her ebony hair escaped its long plait, trailing over her shoulders. Dark eyes screamed their victory as a cruel smile crossed her face. Her presence dominated the room, seeping into every corner like poison.
“It is over, Your Majesty. No one will be coming to your rescue, not even your feckless husband.” The witch’s eyes flashed with loathing and triumph. “I have annihilated everyone foolish enough to stand in my way. Now, at last, you will know my pain.”
The witch waited, but the queen had no interest in humoring her attacker. Finally, the witch drew a long, tapered finger along the stone wall and continued, “Do not fret; it will be over soon enough. You will perish knowing everything you loved is destroyed.” She glanced meaningfully at the bed. “Or soon shall be.”
The queen’s resolve hardened. She straightened. Careful not to draw the witch’s eyes, she reached into her pouch, withdrew the stone, and put all the disdain she could muster into her voice, “All this hatred and over something that was never yours. All this wanton destruction. And for what? You still will never get what you want.” Her fist clenched around the stone, now slick with sweat. “I will stop you at whatever cost.”
With a shriek, the witch jerked a dagger from her belt and threw herself at the queen. The sharp steel pierced the queen’s flesh, and she stumbled back.
The witch stepped away, her hard eyes emotionless. “It is over.”
The queen pulled the knife from her chest, despite the pain, before toppling to the floor.
“Yes, it is,” she said triumphantly, and thrust the stone before her. “Ola no ola!” A blinding light shot from the stone, throwing the witch against the wall and knocking her unconscious.
Using the last of her strength, the queen dug her nails into the cracks of the stone floor and dragged herself to her child’s bed. The stone lay forgotten, a tendril of light connecting it to the queen as it drained her.
She pulled herself up to touch her daughter one last time. “This gift I give you, my sweet. My life for yours. I pray you will grow into a wise and compassionate princess. One day you will be queen, and I hope a better one than I.”
Behind her the stone’s brightness intensified as its power built. Her vision grew dark as she struggled for the strength to continue. “I cannot protect you any longer, but you will not be alone. A companion—” Her voice rattled in her chest, and she fought for every word.“—will be given to you, a voice to guide you. Always know . . . you . . . are loved.” She fell to the cold floor, her body relinquishing its final breath.
The strand of light connecting queen to stone snapped and a blinding light flooded the land. When it faded, the kingdom lay empty of all human life, save the princess. Even the bodies of the slain had vanished from the land without a trace. The princess slept on, her hair now raven black, as a glowing orb hung over her head

Monday, April 10, 2017

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Homeschool Raised and Author Faith Blum

Today's homeschool author is from the other side of homeschooling...a student, Faith Blum. It's great to have you here, Faith!

I’m excited to be here. Thank you for offering this series of author interviews for homeschooling or homeschooled authors.

Some people reading this may not know you, so list three or four things about yourself to help them get a feeling for your personality. 

1.      I’m much more outgoing online than I am in person. Although, if you get me talking on the correct topic, I can talk quite a bit.
2.      I live at home with my parents and siblings
3.      I am the oldest of four, but there are 20 years between me and my little brother. Yes, he was a bit of a surprise.

How long does it take you to write a book?

That really depends on the book. My fifth novel, The Solid Rock took me 32 days to write the rough draft in July 1-August 1, edited in December through January, and then it was published on March 26, 2016. That was the fastest it’s ever gone for me though, unless the story was a novella or short story. Usually it takes longer. For example, my current WIP took me a couple months this spring to finish the rough draft and I’m taking a little more time to edit it than I did with The Solid Rock

Do you tell people much about your works in progress until the first draft is complete?

It depends on the work. Sometimes I talk about it and sometimes I don’t. There isn’t much rhyme or reason to it.

How did you feel when you got your first fan mail?

Thrilled, excited, and very encouraged. I don’t remember what it was actually, but I do know that any time I get fan mail, I am quite encouraged.

If you become well known someday, do you welcome fame or dread it?

Considering the blatant Christianity I put in my books, I doubt I’ll ever become incredibly well-known. That being said, I would dread it. I’m a very private person so having a lot of attention is difficult for me.

You self-publish – why?

*does best evil villain impression* I like ze control! It is all-consuming and gives me all my desires.
Ahem! Sorry about that, my inner evil personality just got loose. Truthfully, though, being able to write what I want rather than what is demanded of me, have the final word on covers, formatting, and content, and all of that really is one reason I chose to self-publish.

As I mentioned in the last question, I’m quite blatant and unapologetic about the Christianity I put in my books, and even most Christian publishers would probably want something more or less in them. For instance, the romance I have in my books is very light. Married couples do kiss, but it is said that way, not described in every juicy detail and that’s as far as it goes. I have read some Christian Romances that describe a LOT more.

It is my personal conviction that some of those details don’t need to be in the books. That being said, it is truly just MY personal conviction. If you are okay with reading and/or writing something else, that is fine.

Will you ever submit a book to a publisher, or stick with self-publishing?

I like self-publishing, so I’m going to stick with it.

Contact and follow Faith
Email: author@faithblum.com
Blog: www.faithblum.wordpress.com
Twitter: @Faith_Blum
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/HymnsoftheWest
Website: www.FaithBlum.com
Other: www.Pinterest.com/faithblumauthor